Home » Too-Early SEC College Football Betting Preview for 2023

Too-Early SEC College Football Betting Preview for 2023

March Madness may dominate the airwaves right now, but as spring football gets underway around the country, college football bettors looking for an edge should pay some attention to local beat reporters. Nuggets of information that you come across now can help you get an edge later in the season. Let’s take a look at some important news and notes from the SEC. Since the 2023 SEC championship betting odds are yet to open, I’ll list each team’s current odds to win next year’s college football national title. Come back to OddsShopper during college football season to use our tools to beat the market and make a profit!

 

Too-Early SEC College Football Betting Preview for 2023

SEC 2023 Favorites: Georgia (5-2) and Alabama (5-1)

Despite the number of concerning headlines to come out of both schools, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide are favored to capture the national title next season. Nine Georgia players have been arrested in the last year and a half. Alabama likely just lost 5-star defensive back prospect Tony Mitchell after Saban suspended him following a marijuana arrest.

Both teams will also make a change at quarterback, as Stetson Bennett and Bryce Young are now gone. Barring something unforeseen, Carson Beck should take over for the Bulldogs. Beck recorded an impressive passing efficiency grade of 186.4 on 35 attempts last year, most of which came against Oregon and Vanderbilt. However, he won’t have Brock Bowers or Darnell Washington to target in the passing game.

Alabama’s quarterback situation remains unclear. Last year’s backup, Jalen Milroe, struggled in relief of Young. He recorded a passing efficiency grade of only 125.4 on 53 attempts but produced with his athleticism by scampering for 268 yards on 31 attempts. Ty Simpson, a former five-star recruit, has more potential as a traditional passer but threw only four times last year. When asked about the situation, head coach Nick Saban said “I think everyone has an opportunity” before expressing his confidence in both players.

Quarterbacks aren’t everything — the Georgia Bulldogs lost then-starter J.T. Daniels during the 2021-22 season, only to have walk-on Stetson Bennett lead them to the championship — but they do make a difference. Over the last five years, the starting quarterbacks for the College Football Playoff teams had an average passing efficiency score of 172.06 and an average ranking of 11.6 for that season. With the exception of Grayson McCall in 2021, the quarterback who led in the metric also earned his team a playoff bid.

Barring some serious buzz around either Milroe or Simpson out of spring football, Alabama is a sharp team to fade at the current price. It’s hard to justify backing the Tide at 5-1 to win a title after they just failed to make the playoff with a much better quarterback leading the way. Georgia probably has too short of a price due to the uncertainty around Beck, but I can’t recommend fading the Bulldogs.

SEC 2023 Contenders: LSU (18-1) and Tennessee (30-1)

Both the LSU Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers scored big wins over the Alabama Crimson Tide last year. While it’s probably too early to declare Nick Saban’s era of dominance over, the Tide looked remarkably vulnerable in conference play last season. Still, head coaches Brian Kelly and Josh Heupel can’t get complacent after one strong season.

Despite losing his quarterback and leading receivers, Heupel is in a better position to make a run in the SEC than Kelly. Hendon Hooker played exceptionally efficient football under Heupel, finishing with the 47th and 24th best seasons in passing efficiency of all time before leaving the program this year. Joe Milton III looks ready to fill those shoes. He recorded a passing efficiency grade of 178.5 in his Orange Bowl start against Clemson, better than Hooker’s season grade (175.5) last year.

The Volunteers will get to keep running Heupel’s effective scheme and should benefit from some offseason additions. Gone are X-receiver Cedric Tillman and Y-receiver Jalin Hyatt, but Oregon transfer Dont’e Thornton Jr. and Squirrel White are well-equipped to pick up where those two left off. Tennessee also added six four-star recruits on defense, double what they had added on that side of the ball a year before, and secured solid defensive contributors in BYU cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally, BYU linebacker Keenan Pili and Arizona State defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott through the portal.

Brian Kelly is in a worse spot. While he’ll get to keep his quarterback, Jayden Daniels, that may not help him much. Daniels ranked a disappointing 40th in passing efficiency last year (144.5). He achieved his best performance in the metric, a 24th-place finish (149.2) back in his freshman year at Arizona State, so there is little reason to expect much improvement from him next year. Worse, Kelly’s offenses don’t seem strong enough to help quarterbacks do much better — Ian Book (147) and DeShone Kizer (147.7) both finished with career grades similar to what Daniels is on pace to produce.

With odds of 30-1 to win a national title, the Volunteers are a much better bet than the Tigers. LSU will also have to play a resurgent Florida State program on the road next year, and Tennessee’s non-conference opponents, which include Connecticut and Virginia, don’t look nearly as threatening. However, LSU likely has a better shot to win the SEC. Both the Volunteers and Tigers must play in Tuscaloosa next year, but the Volunteers must also host the Georgia Bulldogs.

Teams Chaos: Ole Miss (150-1) and Arkansas (200-1)

The Ole Miss Rebels and Arkansas Razorbacks spent time in the AP Poll’s top 10 last season. Ole Miss got out to an electric 7-0 start to the season before excusable losses to LSU and Alabama — only for the wheels to fall completely off against Arkansas and Mississippi State. They now enter the season with a surplus of quarterbacks, including Jaxson Dart, who started for them last year, LSU transfer Walker Howard and Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders.

Dart, himself a transfer, played reasonably well last season but certainly wasn’t perfect. He ranked 42nd in passing efficiency (143.6) but didn’t provide the aerial dominance Ole Miss needed to beat teams that could defend the run. He also made silly mistakes — Dart threw two interceptions against Vanderbilt and three against Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl. Fortunately, whoever starts under center in 2023 will still have Kiffin’s run-heavy scheme and star running back Quinshon Judkins to take off some of the pressure.

Sam Pittman is in a much better position than Kiffin– at least from a personnel perspective. He’ll keep starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson, a dual-threat option who still ranked eighth in passing efficiency (165.2) last year. Running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, who trailed only Judkins among SEC players in total rushing yards (1,443), will also return.  Both players have probably reached their ceiling, but, as they demonstrated last year, it’s a high enough ceiling to keep things close against Alabama.

Neither the Rebs nor the Razorbacks have a schedule conducive to either an SEC or national championship. Their college football betting odds reflect this reality. Ole Miss visits Alabama and Georgia next year. Even the road trip to Tulane could be a problem. Likewise, Arkansas visits LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama next year — with only one break, a neutral-site game against Texas A&M, to break things up. However, both teams have the offensive firepower necessary to give each other — or LSU, Alabama and Georgia — a scare.

 

Overrated: Texas A&M (100-1) and South Carolina (150-1)

Arkansas and Ole Miss both deserve shorter title odds than these teams. The Texas A&M Aggies have lost a number of their NIL recruits to the transfer portal and have an open quarterback competition due to a lack of talent on the roster. Although freshman Connor Weigman looked solid to end the year, his passing efficiency grade (132.3) isn’t up to snuff. The most likely alternative, Max Johnson, fared better in a smaller sample (135.7) but lacks upside.

The Aggies aren’t good, but at least the takes surrounding them aren’t deluded. The same can’t be said about the South Carolina Gamecocks. Spencer Rattler has parlayed a strong two-game stretch into 247Sports’ “Poised to Lead” tier despite a deeply shaky resume outside of those games. Rattler still finished the season ranked 54th in passing efficiency (138.7), the worst mark of his four-year career. Rattler recorded a passing efficiency grade of only 126.7 outside of his games against Tennessee and Clemson.

Rattler’s high-profile wins have made it easy to forget that he looked awful against Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, and he’s likely to struggle again in SEC play during 2023. While he does deserve plenty of credit for those massive upset wins, neither he nor the Gamecocks have turned a corner. Early-season games against UNC, Georgia and Tennessee mean that the Gamecocks will likely enter their bye with at least two losses. Don’t bet on either Texas A&M or South Carolina to win the title or the SEC in 2023.

Team Fun: Vanderbilt (500-1)

The Vanderbilt Commodores took a major step forward last year and won their first SEC game since 2019 by beating the Kentucky Wildcats. They came home and beat the Florida Gators the next week. Although the man under center for both wins, Mike Wright, is headed to Mississippi State this offseason, last year’s real star at quarterback was true freshman A.J. Swann.

Swann, a four-star quarterback recruit, first saw action as Wright’s backup in Vanderbilt’s blowout win over Hawaii. He didn’t touch the ball again until Wright got benched after surrendering a big lead to Wake Forest. Swann then engineered an improbable comeback road win against Northern Illinois and built a first-half lead on Ole Miss. He ended the year ranked 84th in passing efficiency (126.8). Star wideout Will Sheppard, who hauled in 60 passes for 776 yards and nine touchdowns, will return next year as well, making Vanderbilt’s offense a genuine threat for bowl eligibility.

It won’t be easy, but the Commodores could get to six wins next year. Home non-conference games against Hawaii and Alabama A&M are layups. Road non-conference games against Wake Forest, who just lost longtime quarterback Sam Hartman, and UNLV, who just fired their head coach after a 5-7 season, could net them a win or two. The Commodores will then host the post-Will Levis Kentucky Wildcats and the Missouri Tigers. Aside from those six games, Vanderbilt could also score a late-season home upset over the Auburn Tigers. Perhaps the South Carolina Gamecocks could stumble against them as well.

Of course, the Vanderbilt Commodores won’t win the 2023 SEC title, and they certainly won’t win the national championship. The college football betting odds support this conclusion. But if the Commodores open with a win total of 4.5 or lower on the college football betting markets, consider placing a wager on them to beat that number. The ‘Dores were in the plus money just to score three wins last season.